Authors: Sam B. Morgan
Sam B. Morgan
This story is dedicated to both of you, for the therapy of your journey and growth, and proving once more that every child deserves love so they become adults capable of loving.
A million billion thanks to the Captain, for knowing what’s what; Detective Ms. Badass, for keeping it on the level; Jeanette Grey, for the support and techno savvy skills; and Rory Olsen, on-point editor who takes the raw material and makes it shine.
Brody thumped his fist against the paint-chipped front door, loving the way the hinges groaned in protest. Next to him, Lamont let out a long-suffering sigh and shifted on his feet.
“What?” Brody banged again.
Lamont didn’t grace him with another look of doom. Instead he straightened his tie and fanned the sides of his suit jacket against the oppressive Charleston heat. “You want to dial it back a notch?” he asked. “We’re here for questioning, not a raid.”
“No. We’re here wasting our damn time on a dead-end lead.”
“No lead is a waste,” Lamont argued, leaning out over the stoop to peer inside a window.
“Maybe not, but this kid, Kenny? He’s not our Strangler.”
“He’s got priors.”
“So do half the kids in this neighborhood. He doesn’t make sense as a suspect. Not to mention when I found the first DB, he would’ve been, what? Fourteen?” Brody shook his head at his partner. “No way in hell is he the Strangler.”
“I’m not saying I disagree.” Lamont swiped at the sweat on his forehead. “I’m saying we got a lead. Helluva lot more than what we’ve had the last year, so it’s our job to check.”
They were only knocking on Kenny’s door under captain’s orders, and his reasons reeked of coddling the press. Brody would love to tell him where he could shove his reasons. This was his case. From the night he’d found the first victim when he was a shiny new uni, right up until now. Sure, leads were scarce, but this was bullshit.
“This is bullshit,” he grumbled aloud, turning to eye the street behind them.
“So you’ve said. All through lunch, in the car on the drive over here—”
“And not once did you disagree with me. So Kenny is from…” He made a point of looking around at the run-down neighborhood. “Here. You know that doesn’t mean jack.”
This time Lamont did look over. His dark eyes softened as he gave a small nod. He was from the same neighborhood, and he saw the holes in this lead just as clearly, but he was playing good cop. Brody walked the fine path of keeping the brass happy, but he couldn’t manage it with a smile quite like his partner’s. He’d follow this bullshit lead so the captain didn’t bust a vessel, but tonight he’d be knee-deep in the files, looking for something that might actually catch a killer.
This time Lamont stepped forward and knocked while Brody stared a hole through the door.
“You hoping for X-ray vision, man?” Lamont tried the handle. “Quit scowling. You’re scaring the door. What do you think? Not home?”
“Car’s in the driveway.” His mood shifted as he focused on the familiar prickle of instinct. Time to break out the old patrol-cop skills: Yell
See who scatters.
“Police! Open up!” Brody banged on the door with both fists.
There was a beat of silence, then a soft
followed by a screen door slam from the back.
“Shit. He’s running!” Lamont ran for the car while Brody leaped off the front stoop and sprinted for the side gate.
Damn it! It’d been too long since he jumped feetfirst into a full-on foot chase. Brody’s legs protested as he pushed them into high gear. Homicide tended to deal with bodies that didn’t move fast. Or at all.
He caught sight of the runner, recognizing him as Kenny. Barely nineteen, carrying a lot less muscle, and hauling ass toward the back. Brody closed in only for Kenny to jump the fence in a blur of red T-shirt and denim.
“Shit.” Brody pumped it harder, grabbing the crumbling planks and launching himself over. He landed hard on his feet and reached for his radio, continuing down the gravel road that ran between neighborhoods.
“In pursuit…heading west on Simons.”
He heard Lamont’s voice in response as he gained some ground. The kid had a lead now and knew the area. Home-field advantage. He hoped he didn’t start darting through yards.
Kenny ducked into the side gate of another house.
“Fuck.” Brody followed him through the gate.
The backyard was a hazard area of tall grass and scrap metal. He dodged half of a rusty car and followed the kid through the opposite gate. A fully operational car narrowly missed Kenny as he sprinted out into the road. Blast of a loud horn, but he kept moving.
“Now cutting through the grocery-store parking lot, headed west.” Brody followed; the only thing in view was Kenny’s black cap as he ran past parked cars.
Brody was starting to feel it, thighs burning, his body praying for Kenny to make a mistake. He pushed it, and geography finally caught up with the kid.
Kenny ran himself into a corner. Wire fencing blocked off the path straight ahead, concrete walls on both sides. Panting hard, Brody raised his hands when it looked like Kenny was going to make a leap for it.
“Stop! We just want to talk.”
Kenny shifted on his feet, eyes darting from side to side, taking in his surroundings.
Brody took a couple of deep breaths, wanting his voice to be calm and even. “Kenny.”
He flinched and made a jump for the wall.
Brody leaped and caught his shirt. Kenny fought for balance and lost. He fell back, grabbing Brody on the way. They came down hard and awkward. Kenny landed on top, and pain shot through Brody’s left knee.
“Fuck!” Brody rolled but clung to his catch. He clenched down on the pain. Thank God for adrenaline. “Don’t fucking move,” he growled at the boy, hauling himself up.
He pushed his weight into Kenny’s back, managing to reach around and pull out his cuffs. Blinking through the throbbing haze of whatever the hell had just happened to his knee, he slapped the cuffs on and reached for his radio.
“This is Brody. One in custody at the Piggly Wiggly on Meeting Street. Requesting assistance.”
He dug his elbow into Kenny’s back. “Don’t fucking move,” he told the kid again. He wasn’t in the habit of being an ass with suspects, but Kenny hadn’t come quiet and now something major was going down with his knee.
Lamont pulled up in the Crown Vic and jumped out. Brody let out a groan of pain and relief when Lamont pulled the kid up.
“You all right?” Lamont searched the boy but still managed to triage Brody with a glance.
“Yeah. Just get him in.”
His partner’s eyes narrowed, but he loaded Kenny into the back of the car.
Brody rolled back onto the pavement and tried to will the pain away. He closed his eyes and immediately felt the shadow of Lamont’s tall frame blocking the sun.
“Fine my ass. Come on, I’ll help you up.”
Brody squinted up at Lamont’s huge, out-held hand. He took it, but when he stood and tried to put weight on the knee, it buckled.
Brody hissed and had to cling to his partner to keep from dropping like a rock.
“Mmm-hmm. Fine my
,” Lamont repeated. “I remember the look of that shit from football. You’ve blown out your knee, my friend.” He reached for his radio and requested a paramedic.
“I’m told you I’m fine. I’ll be
,” Brody grumbled.
But the older detective ignored him, tugging him to lean more on his arm as he walked them over to the passenger seat.
“The bus won’t be long.” Lamont sat him down and stood beside the car. “Just sit there and shut up.”
Being off the ground didn’t help the pain at all. Lying, sitting, standing—it all hurt like hell. Brody groaned and laid his head against the back of the seat. Chasing that kid had screwed him. He’d torn something up like a damn champ. Fucking perfect.
“Sonuvabitch,” he hissed as he tried to shift in the seat. “I need a new partner.”
A flash of white teeth from Lamont. “I just
your ass, and you’re complaining?”
They both turned their heads toward the paramedics pulling into the parking lot.
“Yeah.” Brody grimaced as another bolt of pain ran through his leg. “But I need a young one to do all the damn running. Because I think my knee is fucked.”
A month later…
“Sorry I’m late.” Zack rushed through the door, clipboard in hand.
He never ran late. People were accustomed to waiting when it came to health care, and he loved the surprise on their faces when he arrived on time for their physical therapy. Being ten minutes late for his last appointment of the day crawled all over him. The surly, broad-shouldered, boxing-champ look-alike currently death glaring him didn’t help.
“I was hoping you’d forget,” the man muttered, hand over his bound left knee, his dark eyebrows wrinkled at the sight of Zack.
His coworker, Matt, had told him all about this patient yesterday. Douglas Brody, detective for the City of Charleston, blew out his ACL on the job. Went by Brody, uncooperative, making no progress, all around pain-in-the-ass patient. Matt’s words. He’d tried working with Brody but insisted on passing him off after just a few weeks.
“You planning to start with the same monkey tricks as your friend or just stare me into being able to run again?” Brody asked.
Zack hadn’t realized he was staring. In certain other circumstances, Zack would absolutely stare at a man like Detective Brody. But not here and not with an ill-tempered patient. Not with any patient.
“Well?” Brody asked, his body bowing up like a snake ready to strike.
Matt wasn’t kidding about the attitude.
“They’re not monkey tricks, Detective. They’re exercises meant to increase your range of motion and strength.” Zack noted the flash of recognition in Brody’s eyes when he’d called him detective. Figured he’d like that. Brody loved his job and wanted to get back to it ASAP. He’d made that much clear enough that even a slack PT like Matt made a note in his file. Motivating factor. Every patient needed it.
“By the way, I’m Zack, your new physical therapist. Nice to meet you too, and yes, I will get you up and running again. We’ll start on the platform.” Zack walked to the raised area in the center of the room and waited.
Brody didn’t budge. Just sat there giving him the stink eye.
For someone so dedicated to being a detective and claiming readiness to get back to work, it made no sense that he wasn’t fully committed to therapy. Maybe there was some other issue here, the squishy stuff that went beyond physical recovery. Matt didn’t “deal with that shit,” as he put it, but Zack didn’t mind a challenge. Zack found that difficult patients generally had a reason. Brody was probably in a lot of pain, and the meds definitely made you a different person. He looked like a normally capable guy and, with his job and…physique, clearly physical. Suddenly taking away his ability to walk would make someone like him an asshole. Zack worked in health care; he expected to deal with people who weren’t at their best.
“We’re over here,” Zack said again, waving his new patient over with an intentionally over-the-top smile.
Brody made his way to the platform with the heavy
of crutches. He wasn’t even using those correctly.
“Hold all your weight up with your hands, not under your arms.”
“What?” Brody scowled, coming to a stop.
Zack stepped forward and pushed Brody’s shoulders back, feeling his whole body stiffen at the physical contact. He stood up straight and then leaned away.
“No, not leaning back. Up straight. Like this,” Zack said, nudging him forward. “Press down on your hands, using the strength of the entire arm to help hold your weight as you walk. Keeps your posture straight and you won’t pinch a nerve under your arm.”
Brody kept on scowling and clunked even louder the last few paces, but he used the crutches correctly.
“You’re welcome. Now, we’re going to start with range of motion. Face the platform, and we’ll work on bending the knee. You can use the crutches for balance if you need them.”